Eastgate Systems      Serious Hypertext

Mirror World

Mirrorworld To retain coherence, writers of both texts and hypertexts frequently adhere to a single voice and point of view. Mirrorworlds provide a parallel or intertextual narrative that adopts a different voice or contrasting perspective. The Mirrorworld echoes a central theme or exposition, either amplifying it or elaborating it in ways impractical within the main thread. Where Counterpoint interweaves different voices of equal (or nearly equal) weight within a single exposition, the Mirrorworld establishes a second voice that separately parallels (or parodies) the main statement. ( The term "Mirrorworld" is meant to allude to Through The Looking Glass and to funhouse mirrors, not to Gelernter's monograph [32].)

In Uncle Buddy's Phantom Funhouse [56], by John McDaid, readers explore the computer files of the late Arthur Newkirk through his HyperCard home page, which is organized in the image of his house. The back door, obscurely labeled "Egypt", allows passage to Newkirk's locked files; these files, once the reader gains access, appear in a distorted image of the house, retitled "Auntie Em's Haunt House". In this haunted funhouse, the content and concerns of Newkirk's HyperCard house are mirrored in darker extensions and parodies. McDaid adds depth to the reader's knowledge of Newkirk through this distorted addition to his life and work.

The central thread of Edward Falco's A Dream with Demons is a novel-within-the-novel: a story of a woman, her daughter, and her lover. wrapped together in love and violence [25]. This narrative is interrupted periodically by navigational opportunities that lead the reader into a basement of notes and memories, purportedly belonging the notional author. Falco thus superimposes two layers of fiction: the dramatic conflict of incest and abuse in the conventional narrative is echoed by the more complex and ambiguous backstory of the Mirrorworld. The Mirrorworld also here plays an intriguing formal role: by revealing the thoughts and motives of the story's notional creator in a second fiction, the basement invites the reader to speculate on the nature of authorship more deeply than the familiar reader/writer dichotomy[41] [28].

Kathryn Cramer's "In Small & Large Pieces" [18] defies coherence in its central thread, which is told backward and which veers unpredictably between a mundane squabble between children and a horrific fantasy of the grand unified parent. Its Mirrorworld interleaves brief and impressionistic sketches of interior life -- perhaps of the protagonist at a later time, perhaps of the author as a younger woman. Here, the Mirrorworld is spare and fragmented, resisting even the retrograde coherence of the central thread; without determined effort, the reader finds it difficult to remain in the Mirrorworld. The fragmentation reflects the shattered mirror of the work's title; the mirror world cannot be put together again, but sharp, silvery splinters are always underfoot.

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